Ethical and Moral Techings
and moral teachings may be the gratest ever recorded, of course that's
a biased and culturally bound appraisal. But they are certainly among the
greatest, and the leaders and theologians of other world religions laud
him for his teachings and many of them try to claim him as their own; the
Moslems, The Hindu, and the B'Hai. Yet is was not the originality of his
moral thinking that makes him great; the Stoics and others said many of
the same things. And yet there are certain factors which do make Jesus'
teachings unique and worthy of particular attention above and beyond that
of most if not all ethical teachers.
The "beatitueds" that Jesus
speaks in the Sermon on the mount indicate the value system out of which
he opporated. Blessed means "happy" but he is saying more than "happy are
the peacemakers." In prouncing them blessed he is saying basically 'there
are the goodguys' and indicates a natural Tao working through the divine
economy to protect and vidicate those who live by such values. "Blessed
are the poor in spirit for their is the kindgom of heaven; blessed are
those who mourn for they shall be comforted;...meek will inherit the earth...those
who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled...merciful
showen mercy...pure in heart will see God...peacemakers called sons of
God...those persecuted for rightousness for theirs is the kingdom of heave."
This is the way, this
is how to be, these are the values one should hold. This is basically what
he is saying. Essentially these qualities are those of a righteous person,
they are oriented around God as the primary value and love for the neighbor
as the main manifestation of love for God. To mourn probably means repenting
for the evil we have done, or at least being able to empathize with other,
to care about the pain others. "poor in spirit" refurrs to real poor people
made more explicit in Luke, but the poor in the Bible are the righteous
poor who trust in God for their sustainance.
Seek Ye first the Kingdom of God...
"Do not be anxious saying
'what shall we eat?' 'what shall we drink?' 'what shall we wear?' The Gentiles
seek all fo these things and your heavnly Father knows that you need them
all, but seek first his kingdom and his riaghteousness, and all these will
be added unto you..." (Matt. 5:28-33)
"Do unto others as you
would have them do unto you." ..Other religions, probably all, have
similar injunctions, but I have not found has this qualifyer making it
a self-reflexive command.
By placing the command
in terms of one's own standard of well being, the command becomes an exhortation
to "love the neighbor as you love yourself." No higher standard could be
given, one does to himself only that which he/she most desires to be done.
By placing the command in these terms one cannot refuse to come to the
aid of anyone in need. We would all prefur that others come to our aid.
If the command were stated negatively, "do not do unto others that which
you would not have done to yourself" one could ignore the neighbor in need.
If the command stopped at merely loving the enemy or the neighbor one could
refuse to help. By placing it in these self reflexive terms it is made
active. One must go out of his way to seek out the needy.
Kant's great ethical
system the categorical imparative was based on the Golen Rule of Jesus.
If you love those
who love and hate those who hate you even the Gentiles do that, but I say
unto you love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you
Matt 22:35. "and
one of them, a lawgiver, ask him a question to test him, 'teacher what
is the greatest commandent?' ...37 "and he said to him ye shall love the
Lord you God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your
mind. This is the great and first command,and the second is like it, You
shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands depend the
law and the prophets." (RSV).
Note: All lgegal regulations
and striving of law keeping are summed up in love of God and love of neighbor.
This shows that Jesus' ethics surpass the rulekeeping stage and ascend
to the highest level of conceptual morality, that of the ideal stage where
actions are motivated by internalized principles. Moreover, by basing the
second command upon love for the neighbor, but relating to love for self,
it forms it's own second version of the categorical imparative. Note also
if we love our neighbor as ourselves we are commanded to love ourselves,
to recify the self image in relation to recipricle nature with others.
At the same time, we cannot get off the hook by loving enemies any less
(since even enemies are neighbors). Thus the will for the good of the other
is indexed by our own will for our own good.
The compassion of Jesus
can be seen in many of the stories. The woman caught in the act of adultary
is taken before him and the mob wants to stone her. She has broken the
law, she is worthy of death (accordin to that culture and that time). Jesus
stoops and writes in the sand. We don't know what he wrote, but perhaps
it was the names of those in the mob who had slept with her (they weren't
being accussed). He says "let he who is without sin cast the first stone..."
There is the compassion he exhibited to the many people who implored him
for healings, and he never refussed anyone.We forget anyone else would
have been running from those lepars and demoniacs that he healed. The demoniacs
were dangerous, and the leapers thought contageous. But the also demonstrates
a total lack of hypocracy in being unafraid to associate with those who
needed him most. When he was criticized for being in the company of drunckards
and prostitutes; he merely made fun of the prudes and said, in affect "well,
I didn't come to help those who are so well off (the self rightous people)
but those who know they need help" There is no way to capture the greatness
of Christ's compassion and moral teachings in one of these subpoints, but
I urge you to get a Bible and read the Gospels over and over, and with
an open heart and you will see no greater compassion than that of Jesus
Christ, and that of course is culmenated in his sacrifice on the cross
for our sins.
lay down his life for the sins of the world. "Greater love hath no man
than to give up his life for a freind," yet Jesus' died for everyone; and
his own understanding of what he was doing was that he laid down his life
as a "ransom for many." But it seems unlikely that his followers would
enlarge upon his mission to this extent. Perhaps they could have enlarged
upon his deatht o include the mission to Israel and it was Paul who expanded
it to the rest of the world. But there is great likelyhood that he understood
himself to be doing something benificial for all humanity. After all it
was not Pauline Theology but the understanding of the Beloved Deciple of
the fourth Gospel who puts into Jesus mouth the statement "for God so loved
the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes on
him should not perish but have everlasting life."
Jesus Moral Authority recognized almost universally.
All over the world people
recognize Jesus Chris as one of the greatest moral teachers in history,
if not the greatest. Ghandi admired him, Hindus and Buddhists claim him
as enlightened, Moslems claim him as prophet of God menitoned in the Koran,
and even many prominant Jewish thinkers and Rabbis admire him as great
techer and fine example of Judaism.
From my youth onwards
I have found in Jesus my great brother. That Christianity has regarded
and does regard him as God and Savior has always appeared to me a fact
of the highest importance which, for his sake and my own, I must endeavor
I am more than ever
certain that a great place belongs to him in Israel's history of faith
and that this place cannot be described by any of the usual categories.
Two Types of Faith
(New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1961), pp. 12-13.
Israeli Teacher and
If the prophet Elijah
has ridden in a fiery chariot into heaven, why should not Jesus rise and
go to heaven?
Cited by Pinchas
Lapide, p. 138 in The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis:
Augsburg Publishing House, 1983).
Novelist and Essayist
Jesus was a Jew --
the best of Jews....
Jesus was not only
a Jew. He was the apex and the acme of Jewish teaching, which began with
Moses and ran the entire evolving gamut of kings, teachers, prophets, and
rabbis -- David and Isaiah and Daniel and Hillel -- until their pith and
essence was crystallized in this greatest of all Jews....
For a Jew, therefore,
to forget that Jesus was a Jew, and to deny him, is to forget and to deny
all the Jewish teaching that was before Jesus: it is to reject the Jewish
heritage, to betray what was best in Israel....
I know a number of
Jews who believe as I do, who believe it is time that the Jews reclaimed
Jesus, and that it is desirable that they should do so...To take three
examples among them, one is a novelist, whose books are about Jews and
read by Jews; one is an educator, whose work is among Jews and who knows
Jews exceptionally well; and one is a scholar interested in Jewish Sunday
schools--if he were permitted by the elders he would include among his
readings of "gems" of Jewish literature the Sermon on the Mount.
In An Open Letter
to Jews and Christians (New York: Oxford University Press, 1938).
Former Editor of
the Saturday Review
There is every reason
for Judaism to lose its reluctance toward Jesus. His own towering spiritual
presence is a projection of Judaism, not a repudiation of it. Jesus is
not to be taxed for the un-Christian ideas and acts of those who have spoken
in his name. Jesus never repudiated Judaism. He was proud to be a Jew,
yet he did not confine himself to Judaism. He did not believe in spiritual
exclusivity for either Jew or Gentile. He asserted the Jewish heritage
and sought to preserve an exalt its values, but he did it within a universal
context. No other figure -- spiritual, philosophical, political or intellectual
-- has had a greater impact on human history. To belong to a people that
produced Jesus is to share in a distinction of vast dimension and meaning....
The modern synagogue
can live fully and openly with Jesus.
"The Jewishness of
Jesus," American Judaism 10:1 (1960), p. 36.
Physicist and Professor,
As a child I received
instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled
by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without
feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every
word. No myth is filled with such life.
Jesus is too colossal
for the pen of phrase-mongers, however artful. No man can dispose of Christianity
with a bon mot.
Viereck, "What Life Means to Einstein," The Saturday Evening Post, October
Hyman G. Enelow
President of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis
and Rabbi of Temple
Emanu-El, New York City (Reform)
Jesus was not only
born a Jew, but conscious of his Jewish descent.
Jesus realized the
spiritual distinction of the Jewish people, and regarded himself as sent
to teach and help his people.
Jesus, like other
teachers, severely criticized his people for their spiritual short-comings,
seeking to correct them, but at the same time he loved and pitied them.
His whole ministry was saturated with love for his people, and loyalty
Jesus, like all other
of the noblest type of Jewish teachers, taught the essential lessons of
spiritual religion -- love, justice, goodness, purity, holiness -- subordinating
the material and the political to the spiritual and the eternal.
Who can compute all
that Jesus has meant to humanity? The love he has inspired, the solace
he has given, the good he has engendered, the hope and joy he has kindled
-- all that is unequaled in human history.
"A Jewish View of
Jesus", pp.441-442, 509 in Selected Works of Hyman G. Enelow, Volume III:
Collected Writings (privately printed, 1935).
Solomon B. Freehof
Author and Professor
at Hebrew Union College
All this vast diversity
of opinion has not lessened the vividness of the personality of Jesus.
The opposite opinions have not balanced each other into immobility. All
the opinions are still staunchly held and ardently defended. The years
have not diminished the urgency of the question: "What do you think of
fact is that time has not faded the vividness of his [Jesus'] image. Poetry
still sings his praise. He is still the living comrade of countless lives.
No Moslem ever sings, "Mohammed, lover of my soul," nor does any Jew say
of Moses, the teacher, "I need thee every hour."
In Stormers of Heaven
(New York: Harper and Row, 1931).
British Zionist and
The charm of his
personality has sent its rays all over the world, and infused countless
human hearts with the spirit of love and self-sacrifice....Yet the roots
of the life and thought of Jesus lie entirely in Jewish soil.
In The Synagogue
and the Church (1908), quoted in Jewish Views of Jesus: An Introduction
and Appreciation by Thomas T. Walker (New York: Arno Press, 1973 [reprint
of 1931 ed.]), p. 25.
German and American
Reform Rabbi and Chief Rabbi of Luxembourg
In order that Jesus'
power of hope and greatness of soul should not end with his death, God
has raised in the group of his disciples the idea that he rose from death
and continues living. Indeed, He continues living in all those who want
to be true Jews.
Cited by Pinchas
Lapide, p. 137 in The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective (Minneapolis:
Augsburg Publishing House, 1983).
Jesus moral authority and attribute to him status as messenger of the divine.
"The Quran, informs
us that Jesus was a human messenger of God whose sole mission was to deliver
God's message; he never possessed any power, and is now dead (4:171, 5:75,
Those who consider
Jesus to be God, or Son of God, or part of a trinity are "pagans" (5:17,
72, 73). Outstanding Christian scholars have reached these same conclusions
(THE MYTH OF GOD INCARNATE, John Hick, ed., The Westminster Press, Philadelphia,
1977 & THE MYTH MAKER, Hyam Maccoby,Harper & Row 1986). Christianity
is the product of Nicene (AD 325). "
[this argument dealt
with below, but the point here is the Moslems recognize Jesus' greatness]
"The denial of that
existence seems never to have occurred even to the bitterest gentile or
Jewish opponents of nascent Christianity. That a few simple men should
in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality,
so lofty an ethic and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would
be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels" (Ibid.,
(The Story of
Civilization, vol. 3, p. 555).
Claimed to be exclusive way to truth
"I am the way the truth
and the life, no one comes to the father but by Me"( John 14:6)
"I am the ressurrection
and the life; he that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he
live." (John 11:25)
"I am the gate for the
sheep, by me if any man enter in he shall be saved..."(John 10:9)
He also said "I
am..." The Messiah Jn 4:26, bread of life, 6:45, from abvoe 8:23, the eternal
one 8: 58,
to be divine
"Jesus said the work
of God is this, believe on the one he has sent"
"So they asked him what
miraculous sign will you do give that we may believe?..."I am the bread
of life, he who comes to me will never go hungry and he who believes in
me will never be thirsty. ...for I have come down from heaven not to do
my will but the will of him who sent me, and this is the will of him who
sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me...(John
This is not just one
lone passage. The Gospel of John begins with the prologue annuncing
that Jesus is the eternal logos come in the flesh (see 1:1,6,18)
and in 3:16 the famous passages is placed in the mouth of Jesus (yes, placed,
see the Bible page for details of my liberal view--i admitt t redaction
of the text, but the basic texts can be cross referenced with even non-canonical
Gospels). That famous passage being "for God so loved the world that he
sent his only begotten son that whosoever believes on him shall shall not
perish but have everlasting life." The chapters 6-8 take up a running dialogue
over the Jesus statements about being the bread of life and the one who
came down form heaven. There are far too many to go into here.
In John 8:56-59
Jesus is conversing with some Jews and says to them "...your father Abraham
rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day, he saw it and was glad." They
asked "you are not yet 50 years old and you saw Abraham?" Jesus replies
"I tell you the truth, before Abram was, I am."( KJV) They understood
this to mean the sacred name of God because they immediately pitcked up
stones to stone him.
John 17:4 "And
now father glorify we with thine own self with the glory which I had with
thee before the world was."
John 8: 42 "For
I proceed forth and come from God"
John 10:30 "I
and the father are one." And they picked up stones to stone him, so they
knew what he was saying.
John 12:45 "He
that sees me sees the one that sent me."
John 14:10 "Believe
me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me"
Mark 2.5ff: When
Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves,
7 "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive
sins but God alone?" 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was
what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are
you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic,
'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?
10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to
Mark 2.28: So
the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath."--
Mark 9:42: "And
if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, - (Notice
that He is endorsing Himself as an appropriate object of religious faith!
A rather important clue as to deity--cf. Jer 17.5: This is what the LORD
says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man.)
While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, "How is it that
the teachers of the law say that the Christ is the son of David? 36 David
himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: "'The Lord said to my Lord:
"Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."' 37 David
himself calls him 'Lord.' How then can he be his son?"--
Mt 7:21-23: "Not
everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will
say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and
in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23 Then I will
tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'--
Mt 11.10: Jesus
applies the Mal 3.1 passage to John the Baptist, which would put Jesus
in the role of YHWH in those passages (e.g. 'the LORD will come to His
Mt 12.6: I tell
you that one greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these
words mean, `I desire mercy, not sacrifice,' you would not have condemned
the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."--
Mt 18.20: For
where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."--
Mt 23.34: Therefore
I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will
kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from
town to town.
Lk 7.48-49: Then
Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 The other guests began
to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"-
Lk 19.43ff: The
days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against
you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you
to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave
one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's
coming to you."-
(note: son of man is
not an admittion that he is only man, it refurrs to the vision of Daniel
(book of Daniel) of one "Like unto a son of man" sitting on a throne..."
It was a designation for the Messiah.
The reader might find some of these claims confussing because some seem
to imply that he is God, others that he is sent by God and is the Son of
God. This is Trinitarian language and will be delt wtih below in the doctrine
of the Trinity. Moreover, These claims are also are not isolated enstances,
they make of the whole fabric of all four Gospels. If the reader would
just read any one or all four of these books he/she would see that one
cannot remove the calim of deity from Christ without the entire narratival
framework collapsing. All the discourses revolve around Jesus' relation
to diety or his Messianic identitity. This too will be discussed below:
see Trinity and Divine claims.
we trust that Jesus said these things?
Can we trust that Homer
wrote the Illiad? No, but then what do we have? Works of genius by other
authors. If Jesus didn't teach the moral teachings placed in his mouth,
than some great moral genius lived among the early Christian communty and
used Jesus as a vehicle for his own teachings. And yet somehow this moral
ginus was also a litterary genius who invented one of the most amazing
charters of all time, and somehow cliams of divinity got into the community
and this ginus decided to employ them, though it was contrary to all Jewish
thought, so the literrary teacher was also a theological ginius as well.
It isn't likely that this greatness could just emerge from the community,
or by redaction, nor by committee. All of these methods would tend to diminish
it. So either another great like Jesus exsited and wrote the Gospels, which
is not really worth considering, or Jesus was this greatness.
We want the great moral
teaching so it's not hard to imagine he said them and few really deny it.
But why then do some think that it is so unlikely that he made divine claims?
When we start to disentangle the narrative we find that it is all so tightly
woven we wind up with no Jesus at all. Everything relates back to Jesus'
deity and Messianic mission. Demons and enemies as well as fllowers acknolwege
it, all the dialouges revolve around it, he says it over and over again
and to slip those statments out make the rest incomprehensible. IF he did
not cliam to be God, why were they willing to stone him? If all he said
was "love your enemies," why did they exicute him? The skeptic might at
this pint try to argue that he didn't make the great moral teachings either.
But if we disentangle the narrative and we find that he didn't say either
set of things, why would anyone even remember him? The same interwovenness
is also true of the miracles. We cannot reduce Jesus to just a nice guy,
his amazing clams, his unbelieveable miracles, and his great ethical teachings
all go hand in hand.
disentangle the narrative.
Jesus makes same divine cliams
Some try to claim historicity
for the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, arguing that its saying are me authentic
and older than those of the canonicals. If this is true it does not get
the skeptic off the hook. The Gnostic Jesus of the Gospel of Thomas makes
the same claims.
28 Jesus said, "I took
my stand in the midst of the world, and in flesh I appeared to them. I
found them all drunk, and I did not find any of them thirsty. My soul ached
for the children of humanity, because they are blind in their hearts and
do not see, for they came into the world empty, and they also seek to depart
from the world empty. But meanwhile they are drunk. When they shake off
their wine, then they will change their ways."
For more complete argument
plese see arguments on validity of NT text on Bible
flesh and Blood Person to make these claims seriously.
that Paithagoras made claims to being the son of Apollo who he took to
be the creator of the world.But that cant' really be proven. There is nothing
like the kind of validation for anything he said that there is for Jesus'
teachings. And he didn't sacrafice himself for anyone. Besides, does being
a great mathematician mean he was a great moral techer? And we have no
idea how metaphorical this may have been.
Personal confirmation and leap of faith
Ultimately, the decision
rests with each individual, and no amount of argument or evidence can really
"prove" that Jesus was the son of God. There is, however, reason to trust
the claims that he made about himself, since he was a great moral teacher
and profound spiritual teacher. Moreover, the best way to decide these
things is just to read the Gospels--not looking for contradictions--but
focussing on the character and teachings of Jesus. I am confident that
any thinking and sensitive individual will, after honest concentration
upon Jesus and little help with understanding from a good commentary or
two, will have to seriously grapple wtih the possibility of Jesus as the
Son of God. I am equally confidient that the right answer is the one i
came to (of course).